Monday, June 28, 2021
4:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Turowski Life Story Funeral Homes
Livonia, West of Middlebelt
30200 Five Mile Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154
Rosary 7 PM
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
St. Genevieve-St. Maurice Parish
Livonia, MI 48154
*Instate 10:30 AM
Life Story / Obituary
Witty, wonderful, and wise, Irene Zelazny lived a wholehearted life, rich in family and friends. Born in a time of plenty and having grown up in a time of great challenge, Irene embodied a passion for life and embraced each day as a gift. Irene loved people and welcomed any chance to be of service to others. She was clever and creative and possessed a terrific dry wit that inspired many smiles and laughter. A devout Catholic, Irene's faith was the cornerstone of her life, encouraging her to welcome life's challenges and joys with gratitude and grace. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Irene was a treasure for all who were blessed to know her. Irene was deeply loved and will long remain in the hearts of those she cherished.
Andrew and Sophie Stepkowicz welcomed their daughter Irene to their family on November 29, 1924 in Detroit, Michigan. The second of three children born to Polish immigrants. She was born during a very exciting time in America, referred to as the roaring 20’s. Being a baby at the time, I’m sure she didn’t get the full effect of the excitement of the times. Instead, Irene's earliest memories were of living through the Great Depression. She used to mention how all she got for Christmas many years was a single orange in her stocking and oh how she treasured that simple gift. It was during these difficult years that Irene's Mom grew homesick for Poland. So she took her three children and returned to her homeland, while Irene's Dad stayed in Detroit, where he worked as a tool and die maker for Chrysler Corporation. If World War II hadn’t started heating up, it is unclear if they would have ever returned to the U.S. The rumors of an impending Nazi invasion made her mother's choice clear; she packed up her children, boarded a cruise ship, much like the Titanic, and returned to the safety of America. Irene long remembered with fond laughter that they were among the passengers who had to stay below in the boat's lower levels and watch the wealthy elite party upstairs.
While Irene rarely spoke about her high school years, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts & Science degree from the University of Detroit. Though unsure, her kids feel confident that her major was English. At least it should have been since she was fond of correcting their grammar and spelling. Up until her final days, she was their go-to consultant for proper phrasing, pronunciation, and spelling of difficult words. She went on to work as an Executive Secretary in the Polish embassy in Washington DC during WWII and then for General Motors for a short time before becoming a wife and mother.
While out dancing in her youth at the Toby Club, Irene had the good fortune of meeting the love of her life, Norbert Zelazny. The pair were enjoying a fun evening at the social club where young people gathered to dance and hopefully find their future mates. Though it was not love at first sight, Norb quickly earned Irene's affections. Norb even taught Irene how to drive! This event alone speaks to their deep love for one another. Despite never being able to successfully teach her how to ride a bike, Norb swept Irene off her feet. On August 26, 1950, the happy couple exchanged their marriage vows in a beautiful church ceremony, surrounded by close friends and family.
The newlyweds settled in Redford, buying their first home at 9988 Hazelton, just outside Detroit. The house had just been built and did not even have landscaping yet. In addition to securing their home, they hit the jackpot on neighbors. The entire block was filled with young couples starting their lives together. Many of these neighbors became best of friends, sharing many wonderful memories far beyond their time in the neighborhood. They continued their connections many years after Irene and Norb moved their family to Livonia, and their kids have fond memories of returning each year for the annual block party.
It was within this close knit neighborhood that Irene and Norb added to their growing family as Irene immersed herself into joys and tribulations of motherhood. Though she soon had her hands full with raising four boys, Irene was thrilled when her long-hoped-for daughter was born. Without a doubt, Rick, Mark, Jim, Dan, and Barb, were Irene's heart's delight. Irene relished in motherhood, and those early years were a source of pride as she and Norb raised and nurtured their young family with love.
Irene did find the time for hobbies. She was a skilled seamstress and sewed many of her daughter's clothes. She participated in many creative classes, even learning cake decorating. Her family truly enjoyed her weekly tasty creations. Her decoupage phase became legendary as she worked meticulously on many projects, some of which hung in the family bathroom for years. She also shared her crafty side with her sons, volunteering as a den mother for her little scouts. And she shared her husband's love of gardening, a passion that has already taken hold in their kids.
An adventurer at heart, travel was key to happiness for Irene. When the kids were young, the family trip of a lifetime took them cross-country by station wagon, pulling a popup camper. For five long weeks they traveled the country, reaching their goal of stepping into the Pacific Ocean in California before looping back and heading for home. Irene and Norb gifted their family an amazing adventure, sharing sights of our country’s natural beauty with utmost patience for their rambunctious kids. In the years following this epic trip, the family made yearly road trips to Florida to enjoy the sun and fun on the beach. Irene never complained when many of these trips were planned around Norb's bridge tournaments. Instead, she concentrated on having fun and creating treasured memories with her children.
Then there were all the trips Irene and Norb made without the children. They enjoyed pursuing their shared love of travel. They circled the globe, making a point of going somewhere exciting every two years, flying off to destinations near and far, including the Canary Islands, China, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, and her beloved Poland, and so many more. Always ready to share beautiful photos to reminisce with family and friends, then setting her sights upon the next adventure.
Many trips centered on Norb's passionate quest to discover the most impressive waterfalls, which more than once left Irene stranded in the woods alone while Norb searched on. Patiently she sat, waiting for his return ever in fear of that bear that would soon come and eat her. Irene's passions while traveling included seeing many beautiful sites and exercising her savvy shopping skills.
Once her youngest turned 11-years-old, Irene returned to the workforce, securing a part-time job at Hudson's. She loved interacting with shoppers and helping them find the perfect purchase. But let's be frank, she mostly liked the 20% discount she earned, which helped her pursue the best bargains money could buy. She even started her own store at home, where her children shopped when they were in a pinch for the perfect gift during the holidays. She later went on to work for Marshall Fields and ended her career with Macy's at age 87. Though she said it was time to retire, had her macular degeneration not impacted her ability to drive, she may have continued to work for many more years.
An active member of the women's Sodality at St. Genevieve parish for over 57 years, Irene embodied the principles of her faith, proving a powerful role model for her family. She instilled in each of them the importance of saving for a rainy day while also being generous with others. She was proud of the strong individuals her children grew to be and cherished being a source of comfort in times of struggle while celebrating their triumphs. When her children began families of their own, Irene delighted in her role as a grandmother. She cherished spending quality time with her loved ones, doting on her grandchildren, and eventually, great-grandchildren. She felt blessed to meet two of her great-grandchildren and enjoyed pictures of the two who were too young to travel and meet her. Most recently, Irene was joyfully anticipating her daughter's wedding later this summer. With great determination to share Barb's special day, she did everything in her power to hold on. It is a great comfort to know that she will be there in spirit, celebrating and proudly showering her family with love.
Clearly, it is difficult to imagine our lives in the absence of Irene's unconditional love and steadfast presence. While we will deeply miss her love for each of us, we will find comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying Irene's legacy forward within our own lives. With each moment we gather with family, every creative endeavor, or adventure we partake, her wise advice we will always remember and guide us. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring to others as she so inspired us.
Irene Zelazny, age 96, passed away peacefully with family members at her bedside on June 21, 2021. Beloved wife of the late Norbert. Dear mother of Rick (Edie), Mark (Jeanne), Jim, Dan, and Barb, and with a special shout out to Asti (Dan) and Herb (Barb). Proud and loving grandmother of Robert, Jessica, Erica, Sarah, and Kevin. Great grandmother of Nadia, Ruby, Lucia, and Amora. Also survived by her many nieces and nephews and their extended families, and of course her dear friends, as well as those who have sadly passed on before her. We loved her and she will be missed ...